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At hour 21, excitement and exhaustion

Naked Stage's third annual 24-Hour Theatre project is unfolding exactly the way you'd imagine, as technical rehearsals for tonight's 8 p.m. benefit performance at Actors' Playhouse get under way.  Which is to say that everyone -- especially Naked Stage's Antonio Amadeo, Katherine Amadeo and John Manzelli, plus all eight playwrights -- is pretty much fried after going for 30-plus hours without sleep.  And everyone is also stoked for tonight's show.

Antonio Amadeo, the producer and go-to guy for any big problem, looks uncommonly perky as he peruses boxes of costumes, props and wigs assembled by Ellis Tillman.  Or maybe he just has this smiling, zen-like way of handling exhaustion.

Playwright Andrew Rosendorf, whose Haunted is (according to everyone who offered an opinion on the subject) this year's most serious/dark play, is 28 and despite not having slept since 9 a.m. Sunday, he ducked out to teach play-writing to 13 high school seniors at the New World School of the Arts early this afternoon.

"They told me I've never been this funny," he says, sounding coherent despite mangling a word or two.

Working with director Hugh Murphy, Rosendorf kept refining the play through the morning, until one of his four cast members, Adam Simpson, found his one-word part "refined" out of the play.

"I feel bad, but he was nice about it," Rosendorf says.

Most of the actors, a Who's Who of South Florida stage talent, confessed that even though they didn't have to show up at Actors' Playhouse 'til 7 this morning, they had trouble sleeping Sunday night, either from excitement or because they knew they had to be at Actors' at such an ungodly hour.

"I just came off an eight-show week doing The Glass Menagerie [at Broward Stage Door Theatre], so I got about three hours' sleep before I had to get up to come here," says Nick Duckart, who's in Rosendorf's play.  "I'm working on pure adrenalin."

Actors' executive director Barbara Stein, who donated use of the theater to the 24-Hour benefit for the second year in a row, says she's supportive of a project that uses such an array of South Florida talent.

"It's like kids in a candy store, watching everyone work," Stein says.  "It's giddy, it's fun, it's serious."

You can still see the results of all this concentrated creativity for yourself.  One of two kick-off events for this year's South Florida Theatre Festival, the 24-Hour Theatre Project is taking place in the large main stage theater at Actors' Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, starting at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $25.  Call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' web site to get your seat.